I've been to 105 countries. Here are the 5 most important things I've learned about travel.
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Iceland is one of 105 countries I have visited so far.Ash Jurberg
I went from a 21 year old who had never traveled to over 100 countries before I turned 45.
Traveling has taught me valuable life lessons that I hope to pass on to my children.
I'm committed to being spontaneous, living like a local, and I never forget to pack an important item.
I was 21 when I went abroad for the first time. I fell in love with travel straight away and set a goal to visit 100 countries before I turn 50. I did it at 45.
Receiving my trophy at the airport in Kiev.Ash Jurberg
I grew up in Australia, which made traveling abroad a significant investment of money and time. As a result, all my childhood holidays were domestic.
It wasn't until I was 21 that I traveled abroad for the first time. After saving enough money, I visited Hawaii for 10 days. I loved exploring a new country and learning so much about another culture that from there I set a goal of visiting 100 countries before I turn 50.
After college, I was fortunate to get a head start on this goal with a marketing job at a major Australian travel company, which enabled me to travel extensively. I soon transitioned from minimal international travel to regular international business trips. My connections through work also gave me access to discounted air fares and accommodation for personal travel. While my friends were spending money on cars and houses, I focused on travel.
I started traveling abroad 2-3 times a year and at the age of 45 I reached my goal of 100 countries when I went to Ukraine in September 2018.
When I got there, one of my friends was waiting for me at the Kyiv airport with a banner and a trophy to celebrate the milestone.
I'm 49 now and have since added five more countries to my list. I've also passed on my passion for travel to my twin sons along with some important lessons.
In Morocco, one of the 105 countries I have visited.Ash Jurberg
When I returned home my boys were 12 years old and I excitedly showed them the trophy and the celebration photos. My milestone inspired them to set the same goal and reach 100 countries before they turned 50.
You started traveling much earlier than me. We still live in Melbourne, Australia and I didn't want the distance to stop her from traveling from a young age as I experienced. So every year I set aside a budget for our family to travel abroad.
I have no doubt that they will reach this goal faster than me. But as they start traveling more, I hope they also learn from some of the lessons I've learned along the way.
One of the earliest lessons I learned when I first started traveling was that spontaneity is key. Whenever possible, I do what I can to break the routine on vacation.
In my trip to Israel, spontaneity was key to gaining new experiences and meeting new people.Ash Jurberg
In 2013 I was in Israel and stood in line to visit a museum. I received a text message from a friend asking if I would be interested in going to the West Bank with them for the day.
If I were to go it would mean that I would forego the museum due to the limited bus schedule. I was torn as I put together a detailed itinerary for my trip and highly recommended the museum. But the opportunity seemed too good to pass up.
My instinct was right. I had a great day and visited a place I never thought I would explore. And since it was Ramadan, I was allowed to spend Iftar, the breaking of the fast, with a local family.
By not being tied to a minute-to-the-minute schedule, I was able to have an authentic cultural experience. And the museum will still be there on my next visit.
From there I decided to give up my extensive travel planning and instead go with the flow. Now I like to have a rough idea of what I want to see or do in a new place, but allow myself the flexibility to make changes on the fly.
I have friends who create detailed Excel spreadsheets that map out every minute of their vacation with military-grade precision. In my opinion, this kind of routine might work in daily life, but when it comes to travel, leaving room for spontaneity creates the strongest memories.
I always take an Australian football with me when I travel. I think it's a great way to meet people and teach them about my home country.
Playing footy in South Africa.Ash Jurberg
My favorite sport is Australian Rules Football, a game unique to Australia. The oval ball is similar in size to an American football and I think it's a great way to meet people and connect with locals.
When I'm traveling at a park, I pull out my soccer ball and ask people if they want to learn a new game. I've played Aussie Footy with kids and adults in places like Russia, Colombia and China. Last month I took my ball to a Texas Longhorns football game and set up a game between the college tailgaters.
My sons also followed me with this idea. On a trip to South Africa in 2015, I stopped for coffee in a small village an hour from Cape Town. Some children were playing in the street and my sons asked if they would like to learn a new game. Neither of the children had played Australian football before, but an impromptu game soon ensued.
I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity for my sons to meet up with kids their own age in another country and have a unique travel experience. They agreed and told me that this was the highlight of their trip.
And it doesn't have to be football. Bringing an item from your home country is, in my experience, a great icebreaker and a great way to connect with locals.
I realized that traveling is a chance to hang out with people I wouldn't normally meet. I encourage everyone who travels to spend time with new people.
The statue of Bill Clinton in Kosovo.Ash Jurberg
In 2014, on a business trip to Macedonia, I decided to add a few days in Pristina. It is the capital of Kosovo and a nearby place that few tourists visit.
I got off the bus and was walking to my accommodation when two teenagers approached. I was obviously a tourist and they were curious as to why I was there.
I mentioned my love of travel, my 100 countries challenge and my desire to explore new places. They were happy to meet a foreigner and asked if they could show me their city.
I was 41; The boys were 17 and had just graduated from high school. Normally I would turn down such an invitation because I was concerned about how it might look to others, a middle-aged man with two teenage boys. However, they were so excited to practice their English and talk to a tourist that I said I would join them for a few hours.
My two new friends told me they studied history at school and gave me a city tour that was as good as any I've had from an experienced guide. They also took me to a student restaurant for lunch, and even though I was the oldest person there and the only foreigner, it was one of the best meals I've ever had.
I soon forgot our age difference and reveled in the experience. The only time their lack of life experience showed was when they took me to a statue of Bill Clinton and asked if I knew him.
They had never met a tourist before, either Australian or American, and naively assumed we all knew each other. Maybe with my graying hair they thought I was friends with Bill.
I avoid TripAdvisor's top recommendations and prefer to ask a local where they eat. I also try to find small, personalized tours led by locals instead of joining big bus tours.
On our bike tour in Japan.Ash Jurberg
Google made travel research easy, but I think it also has its pitfalls. I find that many travelers like to follow the same path and visit the same restaurants. I think these places tend to be overpriced and packed with tourists. One thing I always do when I travel is find out where the locals eat.
The first time I found a great local coffee shop was by accident. It was 2008 in Myanmar and I was looking for a place to have dinner. Unfortunately I had no phone service or a map and got lost trying to find the restaurant recommended in my guide book. After about an hour's walk, I found a small cafe. The seats were old milk crates and there was no menu. There were no other foreigners in sight either.
A waiter asked me in broken English what I would like to eat. A mixture of charades and hand gestures ensued, but he took my order and I anxiously awaited what would be served. I didn't need to worry; This dinner was the best meal I have had in my travels.
If I don't come across something special, I ask every local I meet where they can get a coffee or a beer. I think these places are more memorable than the ones that every tourist already knows.
Likewise, I prefer not to join big bus tours and instead look for small hiking or cycling tours. In my travels, I've found Airbnb Experiences to be a great resource for finding locals who offer a more authentic experience than being on a bus with 50 other tourists.
Since my kids love to ride bikes, when we visited Kyoto in 2019, I found an Airbnb discovery that offers a personalized bike tour of the city. The local guide took us to markets, temples and around his neighborhood. A lot of the places we visited were places we would never have found on our own, I thought. My kids were especially excited when he took us to his favorite candy store. Since then, one of my favorite ways to connect with locals in a new place and see the city through their lens has been.
I know it can be tempting to sleep in, but don't do it. When you look back you won't remember how tired you were, but you will remember your experience.
Photographing in Frogner Park.Ash Jurberg
My last point for me is the most important one that I say to everyone who goes on vacation.
In 2012 I was traveling in Norway with my cousin Yonatan. It was our last night in Oslo and we were out late and didn't get back to the hotel until 2am. We were due to fly home at 9am the next day and I was disappointed that we didn't visit Frogner Park, which is the world's largest sculpture park created by a single artist.
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